Six Nations: Ireland gain famous win over France

Brian O'Driscoll inspired Ireland to a famous 22-15 win over France at Lansdowne Road.

Brian O'Driscoll inspired Ireland to a famous 22-15 win over France at Lansdowne Road.

It marked Ireland's first victory over the French on home soil for 18 years.

O'Driscoll's 47th-minute try, awarded by video referee Brian Campsall, proved decisive for the home side.

His try and a sixth goal from Ronan O'Gara stretched the Irish lead to 22-3.

And although France emerged from their lethargy to grab two tries in 10 minutes to set up a tense finish, Ireland hung on for a deserved Six Nations Championship victory that keeps alive their hope of grand slam glory.

Having completed the Italian job, Ireland now hope to use the French connection to enjoy a Millennium experience in a fortnight's time, with England casting an anxious glance at their March 24 trip to Lansdowne Road.

The bookmakers had France as slight favourites to make it eight wins in a row in Dublin but they did not take into account the new-found confidence oozing through this talented Irish side.

The match was played in Parisian-like spring sunshine that not too long ago would have been more suited to the French backs.

But Ireland are a top-of-the-field side these days and they did not waste the opportunity to bring their exciting three-quarter line into play.

Inevitably most eyes were on O'Driscoll, a cast-iron certainty for the Lions tour to Australia, and he did not disappoint. He invariably beat his opposite number Richard Dourthe and caused panic with every touch of the ball.

But he was not the only Irish hero. John Hayes, the 20-stone 'Bull from Bruff', and another Lions candidate Malcolm O'Kelly were outstanding in a formidable pack.

Superb ball retention enabled Ireland to dominate much of the first half but the French defence, clinically efficient against Scotland a fortnight ago, was once more rock solid for the most part.

O'Gara displayed a few nerves early on, twice spilling possession in the first two minutes, but he put his side in front with a fifth-minute penalty after French captain Fabien Pelous was caught on the wrong side of a ruck.

When O'Kelly similarly transgressed on 18 minutes, Christophe Lamaison levelled the scores but two further strikes from O'Gara, one of them from just inside the French half, deservedly restored Ireland's lead.

Ireland would have been particularly disappointed not to take more advantage of the sin-binning of Lamaison, who was shown the yellow card on 32 minutes for a high tackle on Tyrone Howe.

But a powerful break from Hayes set up O'Gara for a fourth successful penalty which stretched his side's lead to 12-3 three minutes into the second half - and Ireland were in dreamland four minutes later.

O'Driscoll once more got into his exceptional stride in a thrilling 40-metre touchline dash and this time reached the line despite Xavier Garbajosa's last-ditch tackle.

The Blackrock College man appeared to bounce the ball but video referee Brian Campsall, called on to make the final decision, ruled in his favour and O'Gara put the icing on the cake with a touchline conversion.

A fifth penalty from O'Gara made it 22-3 but merely stung the French into producing their best passage of play which brought tries for Pelous, who was bundled over from a rolling maul, and winger Philippe Bernat-Salles, who celebrated his 32nd birthday with his 23rd try for his country.

France showed no fewer than 12 changes to the side beaten 27-25 in Paris last March and manager Jo Maso had threatened to give the Irish "some of their own medicine".

But the French forwards were taught a lesson by the Irish eight and they were played off the park by Ireland's new potent attacking force.

France coach Bernard Laporte had kept faith with the side that struggled to overcome Scotland a fortnight ago but will now be surely set to use the guillotine.

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